Health officials encourage flu, other vaccinations ASAP

By: Taylor Temby Email
By: Taylor Temby Email

Many students have already received their back-to-school shots, but not everyone chooses to get them. Health experts are recommending you reconsider as some diseases are gearing up to become epidemics. Know more about these vaccines.

Students of all ages are required by Colorado law to get a number of different vaccinations, but parents can fill out a simple form to have their children exempt. Required or not, though, health officials are urging people to protect themselves and start as early as possible.

"The pertussis, or whooping cough, outbreak that we're seeing right now, not only in the state of Colorado but nationwide, is a great example of why vaccinations are so important," said Mesa County Health Department director of health promotion Kristy Emerson.

Whooping cough is making its rounds, including 11 confirmed cases in Mesa County as well as a number of pending cases. In Colorado, as of August 11, 2012, a total of 715 cases of whooping cough had been confirmed. The state average from 2007-2011 for this calendar year is 158 cases.

"Whooping cough is sort of resurging. We're starting to see a lot of those cases, and it's something that can be prevented by receiving a vaccination," Emerson said.

With this epidemic in mind, health officials are continuing to stress the importance of vaccinations, including those for students who are constantly in contact with others.

"Some shots are required for attendance in school, and they're required by the state department of health," School District 51 spokesperson Christy McGee said. "If [students] do vaccinate, we want to make sure we have updated records, and if they don't want to, we want to make sure that we have the exemption forms that are required."

The school district tracks how many of its students receive shots. For instance, as of May, kindergarten through fifth grade had 553 students who hadn't turned in updated shot records or exemption forms.

"We don't want diseases to spread; we don't want illnesses to spread," McGee said.

Colorado law does state that students can be suspended if their vaccinations aren't up to date, and granted, not all shots are required but are instead recommended like the flu.

Though it may seem early, health experts highly recommend students and adults alike already look at getting the flu shot. People no longer need to worry about the flu shot not lasting until the peak of flu season.

"It’s earlier than we've seen in other seasons,” Community Hospital vice president of ancillary services Debbie Riggle said. "New studies are showing that immunity actually lasts longer than we used to think, and so getting vaccinated early is a good idea."

You may have already seen area businesses promoting the flu shot vaccination around town, and health officials say if it's convenient for you, you should get it now.

The Mesa County Health Department also recommends students get the HPV shot. It's recommended that they get it sooner rather than later, but they can receive it up to their mid-20s.


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